Microblog: Un-identity Talents

I wrote a while back about talents that I cling to because I just kinda like them. There are also talents I avoid, because I just kinda don’t.

Most of the talents I avoid are just fine balance-wise. Often, they’re even part of the cookie cutter spec most people take. And that’s great! I want them to be viable talents, for other people.

On my monk, I never take Black Ox Brew. It’s a favored talent of that tier for other people, but it doesn’t contribute to my ideal brewmaster, which is one that manages resources from second to second. I mean, I just really love the other two choices, and they’re how I want to play. (I also tend to avoid on-use talents if I can because I’m terrible/lazy.)

There’s also Blackout Combo, which is a fantastic talent that I don’t enjoy all that much. Many people do enjoy it, and I’m glad it exists. But again, it doesn’t contribute to my brewmaster ideal in the same way the other choices do. I want to manage my stagger to extremes! Either by making it really big, or purifying it really small. Stagger is my drug, and while Blackout Combo does effect it indirectly, it’s not quite the same level of excitement for me.

On my demon hunter, I hardly ever take Spirit Bomb. This historically was an unpopular talent, but even now that it’s buffed I still not be super excited about it because I don’t really feel a need for sustained leech on my DH.

I also rarely take Last Resort, another strong, popular talent! Because the way I play, I hardly ever make simple mistakes that can be recovered from with a heal to 30% and extra hp. No, the mistakes that kill me are catastrophic, usually when I fail to use Demon Spikes when I clearly should have, or if I stand in something, or mis-taunt. Last Resort doesn’t save me from those, so I pick one of the other choices instead.

I still use these talents from time to time, but I don’t enjoy them as much as the other choices.

Microblog: Underdog

I enjoy my class better when it isn’t the best. I might even enjoy it the most if they’re the worst. It usually means that I’ll be challenged a bit more, and I crave challenge of the sort where I just have to play tighter to survive. The way balance works in this game, it’s unlikely that any (perceived) balance issues will actually hurt my chances at progress.

I like being sort of uncommon. This is true in for many of my choices, too, including talents and cosmetics. I regularly change my demon horns if I see too many people with the same ones. There are so many vengeance demon hunters strolling around Dalaran, Lazier is but one among many nearly-identical demon-elves. But on my brewmaster, I’m special. There’s not so many of us, and I like that.

Flavor-of-the-month population surges aren’t my thing, either. I like my little group of people that enjoy the class for what it is, not the ones who felt required by their raid to reroll to it.

Most of the time I don’t even realize there was an imbalance, and I still did just fine! I tend to not pay attention to population or rankings at all until I get multiple questions about it. I’ll never be one to reroll for balance reasons.

Microblog: Monetization

I don’t make any money off this blog. At least, not directly. When I started many years ago, the primary way to make money was through ads, which are ugly and obtrusive and don’t make enough money to justify marring my “artistic expression”. So I didn’t do that.

Now, there are things like Patreon which allow readers to directly give back to creators. And those are great. People should be able to get paid for their work, even if it’s stuff like blogging for video games. But I’m still not interested in turning this blog into a (minor) moneymaker, for my own reasons.

Because I don’t get money from this blog, I can do whatever the hell I want. I can avoid topics I dislike (like stats and legendaries), and write about passions not many people share (learning theory, transmog), all because I’m not obligated to please a paying audience. I can fail to update or write anything for two months straight, and I’m not letting any potential customers down.

“You could do all that, and people would probably still subscribe through Patreon!” you might say. That that might be true, but for me it still feels like it would warp my selfish goals. If I have an audience that’s actually spending money out of appreciation for my stuff, I feel obligated to do something for them; to reward them for their patronage. A lot of people who subscribe on Patreon might have questions, and I probably should answer them, right?

I feel like if this were a job, it has to come with responsibility. If you’re being paid to do something, that includes doing the things someone else doesn’t want to do. And I don’t think I could make enough money through Patreon to convince me to write about boring things.

Now, indirectly I have made money off of this endeavor. Bigger sites like Wowhead pay for guides, though it’s usually just enough to cover my costs to play WoW. I wouldn’t have gotten those jobs if not for this blog. What’s probably a bigger, if more subtle, payoff is the marketable skills I’ve learned through this blog, like CSS, documentation, and learning how to answer frustrating questions in a nice way.

I’m pretty privileged to have a well paying job, and the skills I’ve learned from maintaining this blog actually contribute to my job, so that’s all the payment I need.

Microblog: Stagger is a Hell of a Drug

Tanking something that hits hard feels so damn good on a monk. When I see my stagger reach really high numbers, and I purify it mostly away, it’s like a drug. I get a little surge of happy brain chemicals, like you get with most games, but it’s built into the class.

On any other tanking class, you can imagine how much damage you just reduced. Maybe you got hit by the same attack without active mitigation up before, and now you see just how much more health you have remaining when you got your timing right the second time. But the feedback is nowhere near as obvious as on a brewmaster. You can see exactly how hard that hit was in how much stagger you have. And then you can see exactly how much damage you’re throwing off with every purify.

I always want more of it. When I see my stagger start to rise, I want to Purify at the highest point, before it goes back down. There’s some gambling there, trying to get the pool high before cashing out, or before losing it all. I crave that big purify.

Whenever I fight weaker bosses, that low level of stagger leaves me unsatisfied. Why should I ever purify such a small number? It’s such a chore, to have to purify in a dungeon when I just faced off against Guarm, a tiny 10% stagger compared to my earlier 110%. It’s like I built a tolerance to it, always craving a stagger that’s higher than the one before.

Microblog: Talent Experimentation

It’s funny. I love talents more than the average joe. Like, a lot more. I get frustrated when people who don’t change talents for like I do (that’s basically everyone). I quietly rage at people who aren’t open to talent variation. But I also hate spending gold. I’m frugal to a fault. So I rarely change talents in raids unless a) it’s something vital to our strategy, b) there’s a tome set out for everyone, c) we’re on a break so I have time to visit a city, or d) I’m on my monk and I can Zen Pilgrimage to quickly get out and back.

This can be really frustrating when I want to experiment. I love experimenting, especially in those early progression pulls where you have no chance of actually killing a boss, so you might as well learn as much as you can about your talent choices. But I have to really really want it to spend that much gold on a tome. (And I’m not actually spending that gold, I am a herbalist and a scribe for the one reason: making my own tomes. But just knowing how much they sell for stays my hand.)

I usually take down notes between pulls of what talents I’d like to spec into during our next break. We only get one break in the middle of three hours, so sometimes that’s a long period of thinking really hard about how much I want a talent instead of experimenting with it.

I know a lot of people make their talent decisions before a fight by researching what other people do. That’s the smart thing, but it’s not what I enjoy. And with how communities tend to cling to certain talents, I don’t quite trust that other people are making decisions based on experimentation over what’s viewed as the only acceptable choice by the group.

I find a lot of joy in swapping talents even if I don’t have a specific plan in mind, because all the time I’m accidentally finding creative solutions I never thought of. I would love to also use farm raids as an opportunity to experiment, though that’s even less likely to be worth the gold cost of a tome.

Microblog: Talents as Identity

There are some talents I feel an emotional attachment to, like this is how my character is. For my dh, that includes Felblade, Fel Devastation, FalloutFeed the Demon, and Soul Barrier. I’ll change them around sometimes, but I just really like the way those talents are and what they add to my perceived playstyle.

I don’t have quite the same attachment to brewmaster talents. Most of their talents are a choice on what tool solves a problem. Do you need aoe? Hard crowd control? Raid healing? (The one exception is the level 100 talents, which are my favorite for this reason.) But vengeance talents do things like change how you value soul fragments, how you layer your active mitigation, how you generate or spend your mixture of various resources. Choices that enable you to create completely different types of demon hunters, leeching demon hunters, soul fragment demon hunters, cooldown demon hunters, etc.

Brewmaster 100 talents are similar. There’s only that one tier, but that tier allows you to be a damage reduction monk, a smooth monk, or a complicated monk. It’s a beautiful tier! The key difference is that the entire tier has three interesting choices that increase complexity in different ways, whereas demon hunters rarely have three interesting choices on the same row. They’re all spread out so that each row might have one complex choice and one simple choice and something else.

Since I see so many of my DH’s talents as identity talents, I tend to not change them much. Sure, there are cases I will find Last Resort more useful than Soul Barrier, so I’ll change. But if there’s not a clear winner, I want to go with the choices that define the playstyle I want.

On my brewmaster, with their mostly-straightforward talent tiers, I change things around more. Sometimes I need RJW or sometimes Special Delivery, and I don’t particularly love one over the other because they don’t carry an identity with them. I am not the RJW monk like I’m the Felblade DH. I don’t feel deeply unhappy when I spec into Special Delivery like I would if I had to spec into Razor Spikes.

My identity talents add fun to my game. I don’t like speccing out of them because the other options are less fun for me. Fun can come from finding the right tool for the job, as it does when I play around with brewmaster talents, but it also comes from regularly using tools I enjoy the most.

Microblog: Time Management

This expansion has forced me to practice self control. At the beginning, I felt compelled to do everything. All the artifact power dailies, the daily heroic, all mythic 0s, etc. It wasn’t driven by a competitive drive, but that little voice in my head that loves to fill bars (that’s so helpful when it comes to meeting my fitbit goals). It would not shut up until I completed it all.

But it was too much, especially on two characters. Late one night, doing world quests long after raid, it occurred to me that I need to manage my time. That final world quest that awards 1/3 the amount of artifact power I’d get from my daily heroic is not going to get me any closer to my personal goals (which are simple, it’s all about fun for me).

I need to focus on the rewards that are the biggest bang for my time-buck, things like the rare world quests with huge AP rewards, or only doing mythics when I want to. Once I got over the urge to complete everything, I found time to do stuff I like more. It’s been a long time since WoW drove me to reevaluate my schedule like Legion has.

I find myself thinking about my WoW schedule like I do my work schedule. There are all these little things of varying priority, size, and requiring different skills, and a good schedule has to sacrifice some things if you want it to be maintainable in the long run.

My priorities are all about taking care of my two mains, meeting social obligations, and having time for other things like alts and transmog. When I decided to have two mains, I knew that I would not be able to min-max both. I don’t have the time to do that. But I can still get 80% of the way there for 50% of the effort.

Microblog: Actually Terrible

Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.

I’m not sure what the context of that quote is, but when I apply it to myself I find it funny. The whole reason why I maintain this blog is to teach myself, because I struggle with a lot of things. I struggle with learning and paying attention, with reaction times and memory, with verbal communication.

It’s true that once had the trappings of a competitive player, when I was in one of the first US guilds to clear Cataclysm raids. I attribute that to a) unemployment and b) tanking Dragon Soul wasn’t the most difficult thing in the game, and c) I lucked out in joining a guild that had three arcane mages with the legendary staff.

Whenever someone complains about bad tanks, I think “yeah, that’s me”. I pull too cautiously, I do terrible dps, I don’t communicate well verbally. I forget to use cooldowns, zone out, and get defensive (and not in the tanky way). I take forever to pick up on mechanics. I balk at spending gold of any magnitude on consumables.

But I’m okay with my mediocrity. There was a point in my life I wasn’t okay with it, and I got to experience being good at something. But I don’t need that anymore, and I’m having fun in a place where my mediocrity doesn’t hurt too much.

So when I adopt the tagline on my blog “Actually Terrible” that’s my way of just being honest. I don’t want people coming here thinking they’ll get good advice from a top raider. My hope is that average people will come here looking for average advice from an average raider.

Actually terrible, totally fine with it.


Microblog: Words Without Conclusions

Usually when I write posts on this site, it’s with a goal in mind. At least, the only posts that make it to the public eye have to have a point. It’s sort of an unconscious rule of mine, along with presenting everything constructively, even if it’s something I’m particularly peeved about, or decorating everything with meaningful pictures.

I also tend to edit obsessively. It can take me a few days to get something from “nearly done” to “actually published” because I don’t want to put something in the public light if my word choice and sentence structure isn’t polished to the best of my ability.

But there are still things I’d like to write about, things that aren’t important but that I still have some words to write. Things that don’t necessarily have big conclusions or arguments, words that aren’t guides.

I often fill text documents with little tangents. My Google documents are full of them, stuff I find years later that I’m a little sad never left the safe harbor of my private internet. Sometime someone says something on Twitter and I have thoughts about it. Usually more than 140 characters, but usually random enough that I can’t justify a full blog post.

So I’m going to try to write a couple hundred words about these random thoughts once a week (twice this week, since this post is boring by itself). Few pictures, limited editing, just short and sweet all around. I have a couple written up already on topics like talents, transmog, branding, and a few more ideas. We’ll see how long I can go.